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Smoky skies will continue for several days

Sedona AZ (September 18, 2018) – The U.S. Forest Service advises that Coconino National Forest area residents affected by the Platypus and Rhino fires can expect smoky morning skies for a few more days.

– Two lighting-caused fires continue to burn, but burnout operations have been successful and smoke will decrease as the week goes on.
– These fires are burning in extremely steep and/or rugged terrain; attempting to send fire crews to the sites would put lives at risk. There is no risk from the fire to homes in Sedona.

Firefighters finished the majority of the burnout operations on the Platypus and Rhino Fires several days earlier than expected. The burnout operations were a significant part of the suppression strategy, strengthening hand lines, dozer lines, and road systems, to create containment lines to the north and east of the fire. With the large burnout operations complete, the public can anticipate seeing smoke decrease as the week goes on.

However, the fires – which have merged together – will continue to be active in several areas and some smoke will still be noticeable in Sedona and Flagstaff, Parks/Bellemont and Munds Park during the day. It will disperse to the north and northeast during the day and settle into Sedona and the Verde Valley during the nighttime and early morning hours.

An increase in total acreage is to be expected as the main fire advances to the containment lines that crews strengthened with burnouts. The fire also still has potential for movement along the southern edge of the original Rhino Fire, working through unburned fingers of vegetation in the steep rugged canyons. Significant growth to the south is not anticipated, but firefighters are closely monitoring that area and may utilize helicopters to assist with suppression efforts should the need arise.

The fires are approximately six miles northwest of Sedona in Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness (Lat/Long: 34.94291, -111.8701) with a current combined total acreage of 5,525 acres with Secret Mountain Trail No. 109, Secret Canyon Trail No. 121, and Loy Canyon Trail No. 5 closed until further notice.

For public and firefighter safety, the public is encouraged to avoid the area south of the junction of Forest Road 231 (Woody Mountain Road) and 231A.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” says Incident Commander Trainee Brian Blanchard. “But we’re really pleased with the progress our crews have made, and are feeling optimistic that we’ve started to turn the corner.”

The Forest Service has been working closely with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to monitor smoke impacts. Individuals sensitive to smoke can learn how to protect their health by visiting the Coconino County Public Health Service District website at SmokeHealthAwareness.


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